With all the monster college football games this Saturday, one game gets lost in the shuffle; Oregon vs. Tennessee.
After their 72-0 bashing of New Mexico, the No. 7 ranked Ducks travel to Rocky Top for the first time in school history. The largely overlooked game will seemingly spark the long argument between conference powers; Pac-10 vs. SEC. Another blowout win for the Ducks could silence the SEC contingents once and for all.
Historically, the SEC has dominated the PAC-10, with a winning percentage near .700. However, in the last decade, PAC-10 teams have turned things around with a 12-8 record against the SEC.
Taking a closer look at the games, the SEC seems more vulnerable then ever.
Of the SEC’s 8 wins since 2000, the LSU Tigers have accounted for five of them. Tennessee on the other hand, in their four games against Pac-10 teams since 2006, are a measly 1-3 (losing the last three).
What does this mean for Oregon? Most likely nothing.
Ignore the rankings and Oregon and Tennessee have a lot in common. Both young teams who rely on speed on defense and big plays, this game has the making to be a 35 to 34 shootout or a seven to six slug fest. One thing Tennessee will surely use to their advantage is some good ole Rocky Top noise.
No stranger to home field advantages, Oregon was seen pumping in crowd noise during Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice. Noise from a speaker and noise from more then 100,000 screaming fans is a lot different however. The Ducks will need a better strategy then a few silent counts to get around the Volunteers.
Oregon’s plan; shut em’ up early.
The last time Oregon saw a non-conference opponent with more than 100,000 fans was Michigan at the Big House in 2007. Oregon’s first quarter scoring outburst silenced the crowd for the rest of the game.
This Saturday should be no different.
I look to the first quarter as being critical to the outcome of the game. A strong start by the Ducks and things could be over early. Consequently, the longer Tennessee stays in the game the louder fans get, and the better chance the Volunteers have of taking down this Pac-10 power.
Loud stadiums aren’t the only things these two teams have in common.
Both Tennessee and Oregon saw their star running backs endure off the field issues this offseason. However, the Ducks get their star, LaMichael James, back from suspension this week, while former Tennessee RB Bryce Brown is gone for good.
Can this offense get any better?
It will be hard for the Ducks to outdo the 720 yards of offense gained last week, but the addition of James, and a Tennessee defense known to gamble, and susceptible to big plays, could see the Ducks light up the stat sheet once again.
Another thing, or position, to watch on Saturday is the quarterbacks. Both Oregon and Tennessee have young quarterbacks starting the season for their respective teams. Sophomore Darron Thomas and Junior Matt Simms are coming off impressive wins in week one and both look to improve against their first tough opponent.
A combined 122 points scored and 0 points against have both Oregon and Tennessee amongst the highest-ranking offenses and defenses in the country.
No matter what, this non-conference game will go a long way towards Oregon’s run at a Pac-10 championship, and/or an up or down year for Tennessee. This highly touted Pac-10 – SEC matchup is a must see Saturday at 7 pm EST on ESPN2.